Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Medical Tourism Could Be a Risky Ride

Medical tourism is the latest trend in both cosmetic surgery and travel. Here’s the set up: patients can fly to an exotic location, such as Dubai, and get cosmetic plastic surgery performed for a fraction of the price they’d pay back at home. With the money they save, they can afford to splurge on a fancy hotel or resort, where they can recover in peace, quiet, and luxury.

It seems like a win-win situation. Patients get a vacation and a makeover all at once and can come back looking “refreshed” after recovering away from the prying eyes of neighbors and co-workers. Meanwhile, the local economies get a nice financial shot in the arm while they are there. It sounds too good to be true, and it just might be.

A language barrier between you and your cosmetic surgeon isn’t particularly conducive to getting bespoke results from your breast augmentation or facelift. But that’s not the biggest danger. In the United States, patients can recognize qualified doctors by their board certifications, from such recognized associations as the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). Overseas, there is no such luxury and even less recourse – both medically and financially – if something goes wrong.

The worst case scenario was illustrated recently, when a woman from Chula Vista, California chose to visit a cosmetic surgeon just across the border in Tijuana. The woman went in for a liposuction treatment – a procedure which is very low risk when performed by qualified plastic surgeons – and tragically died from a heart attack, presumably related to medical complications during or after surgery. Investigations are still underway, but already, officials have found deficiencies in the clinic’s operating areas and record-keeping procedures.

While death is a rare and extreme consequence of visiting an under-qualified cosmetic surgeon, getting disappointing results or altogether botched procedures which must then be corrected back at home, happens all too often.

With this in mind, patients may want to re-evaluate the merits of medical tourism over visiting a Newport Beach liposuction clinic or an Orange County breast augmentation specialist closer to home. Destination plastic surgery is not a wholly bad idea if in the presence of a qualified doctor. It should not be just about getting a bargain discount.

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